It always give me a bit of a thrill when I discover that two of my collecting areas overlap. For a bit over a year now I've been collecting GB Machin Definitives. I learned, when I started collecting Machins, that a few had been engraved and one particular issue had been engraved by a guy named Czeslaw Slania. I had no idea who that was at the time, so like a lot of other information it sank into that abyssal trench at the back of my mind.
Then a couple of weeks ago the memory bubbled back to the surface. This time the knowledge actually meant something. Slania engraved some Machins! I thought. How cool!
The logical step to take from here was to find out exactly how many Machins did Slania engrave? I discovered that he did two different engravings: one for small format stamps (the standard machin size), and one for large format stamps. When he engraved the die for the small format stamps he left a blank square into which the denomination could later be inserted. Four high value denominations were printed from this die by two different printers - Enschedé and later De La Rue. And one die was engraved for the large format stamp which was to have a 1st denomination (first class).
With a sense of excited urgency I began to dig through my Machin stuff (unfortunately far from organised). After a bit of hunting I found some used examples of the small format stamps. I was thrilled. However, I didn't seem to have any large format stamps. A quick visit to eBay fixed that little problem. But as yet the large format stamp I purchased hasn't arrived, so today I'll focus on the small format stamps.
As I said, the small format stamp was printed in four denominations. The lowest denomination was the £1.50 brownish red. It was first printed on 9 March 1999 by Enschedé. It was printed again by De La Rue on April 11 2000. In fact all four denominations have the same first printing dates.
The £2 deep grey-blue.
The £3 dull purple.
The £5 brown.
There are ways of telling the difference between the Enschedé and De La Rue printings, but I'll leave that for another blog.
To finish up, somewhere along the line I read a bit of a story regarding the engraving of the die for these stamps. I can't recall where I read the story, but when I do I'll give credit where it is due. Basically the story goes that Slania engraved the die and kept a copy of the proof for himself. Enschedé sent the die back to him asking if he could revise it as some of the details were too fine for their printing process. He touched up; the die, but bother (or think) to keep a proof of this version. Some time later - however long it takes for the machinations of the printing process to complete - Slania saw one of the stamps printed by Enschedé and he immediately noticed the differences. Who had made his engraving better? he wondered. Then he recalled that it was in fact HE who had altered it. A good story!
That's all, for now, so until next time...
Stay Slania Crazy!